Why does it use more power?

It may not be clear to non-electronic people why the power usage goes up when using linear regulators. In this section I will try to explain the difference between a linear regulator and a switch-mode regulator. To keep things simple I will assume that the input voltage is always higher than the output voltage. A regulator is placed in a supply line to change the voltage. A simple diagram is this:

I in Vin

regulator

I out Vout

The energy (watts) going in is the current in (Iin) times the input voltage (Vin). The energy coming out is the current out (Iout) times the output voltage (Vout). A linear regulator has 'electronic controllable resistor' which 'burns' away the extra voltage. The following is a principle diagram of a linear regulator:

I in Vin
regulator circuit

I out
measure

Vout

In a modern regulator the current coming out (Iout) is almost identical to the current going in (Iin). The energy which is not used is lost. In fact it is converted to heat. Now we get to the section that a lot of people dread: the formula. P=V*I Suppose we have an input voltage of 5V and an output voltage of 1.8V. If your equipment uses 500mA (0.5A) we have: Input power is 5 * 0.5 = 2.5W Output power is 1.8 * 0.5 = 0.9W. So the difference 2.5-0.9=1.6W is lost. It heats up your circuit. In this case it is very bad: You use only 36% of the power. The remaining 64% is burned away. A switch mode regulator has 'electronic controllable switch' which 'transfers' energy in small chunks. The following is a principle diagram of a switch mode regulator:

I in Vin
regulator circuit

I out
measure

If more energy is required the switch stays closed for a longer period of time. In a good regulator very little energy is lost. This means the power coming out is almost identical to the power going in. Let's take the same example as before: The output power is 1.8 * 0.5 = 0.9W. A good switch mode supply can have and 90% efficiency. As we have 90% efficiency the input power is 0.9 * 100/90 = 1Watt. Thus at the input you will have 1W/5V = 200mA. What if I can't afford the higher power? If you really want to make the design as power efficient as possible you must supply the power yourself. This will require modifications to the board and thus void your warranty. You must remove the linear regulators and feed the board with your own supplies. As we expect a number of users want to do this we will supply more details when the boards come out.

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